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Council approves 2.23% property tax hike

Norm Kelly, left, and Mayor Rob Ford at Toronto City Hall on Dec. 5, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL/Fernando Morales

City council has approved a 2.23 per cent property tax hike in 2014.

The vote was 32-13, and it will cost the average homeowner an extra $56.

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and Mayor Rob Ford battled over the property tax hike in the $9.6-billion operating budget for 2014.

Kelly supported the 2.23-per-cent hike, which includes the 0.5-per-cent levy for the Scarborough subway extension.

Ford was fighting an increase of 1.75 per cent and said he wouldn’t support the budget. (He was the only vote against it at the executive committee last week.)

“By far this is the worst budget since I’ve been mayor,” Ford said in council.

“I will not and cannot support a budget people cannot afford.”

Ford plans to introduce several motions he claims will save the city $50 million “with little or no impact on services.” The full details of his plans haven’t emerged.

“I’ve been working on staff,” Ford said. “I’ve got it down to a science. It’s up to the councillors to vote for it. If they don’t, they have to answer to the taxpayers. I’m putting stuff forward. I want to see what they do.”

The council meeting on Wednesday carried on despite Rob Ford’s sideshows — signing headshots and consulting with his lawyer about an alleged jailhouse assault for which Ford is being sued.

Follow live coverage of the meeting from CityNews and 680News reporters.

Meanwhile, Coun. Josh Matlow took issue with the amount the Scarborough subway extension would cost homeowners.

“How many years will we be asking Toronto residents to pay higher taxes for the Bloor-Danforth three-stop subway extension?” he asked the city’s CFO Roberto Rossini.

Rossini said property taxes would go up by 1.6 per cent over the next three years, and homeowners would pay that higher rate for at least 30 years.

Matlow also pointed out that taxes may again go up when the city accounts for the project’s estimated $40-million capital and maintenance costs, plus operating costs.

He later asked council to vote against the 0.5-per-cent levy.

Click here to watch a live stream of the council meeting.

High Park Zoo, firefighters and paramedics

At the start of Wednesday’s meeting, councillors introduced petitions with thousands of names calling for funds to be restored to the High Park Zoo.
There is also support for adding — or retaining — fire trucks.

Kelly said Tuesday the budget will include money to hire 56 paramedics, 38 fire prevention officers and two bylaw officers this year, as well as extra money for the arts and for families and youth.

OCAP disrupts council

Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty were removed from chambers after shouting, “No more homeless deaths!”

OCAP is against cuts to the Housing Stabilization Fund (HSF) in the 2014 budget, which will mean a loss of $4.3 million. The organization claims over 700 homeless people have died due to a lack of funds for housing.

Click here for the full meeting agenda.